What a year! It is difficult to compare 2021 with the years before the pandemic. The numbers of daily users of Habibi.Works, for example, were subject to legal restrictions and were therefore lower than in 2016-2019. The amount of donations we received over the last 12 months is also lower than in previous years. The winter campaign, however, was very successful - together you donated 17,000 euros from all over the world. This is a fantastic result, thank you very much!
Despite the limitations, 2021 was possibly the year in which the most changes, expansions and developments happened in Habibi.Works. Isn't that incredible? The fact that we were able to not only keep the project alive but grow and improve it in times of a pandemic makes us proud and is thanks to an excellent team on the ground and all over Europe - and of course you, who accompanied and supported our developments!
In this last newsletter of 2021, we are sharing the biggest challenges and the biggest successes, the highlights of each month in 2021 at a glance, and the outlook for 2022.
The biggest challenges - and the most beautiful success stories.
By far the biggest challenges in the past year were the pandemic and the risks associated with it. By risks we mean both the health risks for the participants of the project and the legal risks for our organization. The team had to make countless decisions without clear guidelines from the government - even today, no authority we contact can tell us clearly the allowed number of people per square meter for our building. We have to decide on our own, so we exercise caution, we are particularly responsible - and yet we know that our decisions could, in case of doubt, be held against us differently than against Greek businesses. The mood towards foreign organizations working with refugees has deteriorated further in 2021.
The task of having to make countless decisions about our concept and processes on our own has also tested the team and the team dynamics. While some preferred to proceed too cautiously rather than too calmly, others saw their own freedoms or freedoms of the target group massively curtailed by team decisions. One example: During the first half of the year, all team members joined together to form one big "household" (we called it a "bubble"). Almost all of us live together, so it made sense to be able to take off the mask outside of work when we were together. What was difficult, however, was that all the "members of the bubble" had to behave in the same way towards others: minimum distance, mask, no dates, etc. Are we as a team, as a collective, really allowed to intervene so deeply in the privacy of individuals? Are we allowed to dictate with whom one may meet and how? The dissolution of the "team budget" should probably have taken place earlier in view of the decreasing number of cases in our region - we only decided to do so in the summer. There are certainly many things we would do differently and hopefully better in comparable situations today. This tension between "not knowing" and "having to make good decisions", having to shoulder the weight of responsibility for the safety of the project and its participants, took a lot of energy, strength and time. The number of hours the whole team has spent in additional meetings this year is astronomical. We would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has remained patient and constructive and shaped the project to the best of their ability during these difficult times.
What we celebrate - Biggest Successes in 2021
The biggest success in 2021 is certainly the fact that the project has not only survived another pandemic year, but has also grown considerably in this one. Each of the new areas of work and each new project, such as the HSR sports project in collaboration with our partner YSR, the Re.Works plastic lab and the Tea Truck would all be a reason to celebrate in themselves. That all three could come into being this year, while we also became participants in international campaigns and programs, is overwhelming.
Another success is the large number of "Community Team Members". There has never been a greater number of people from the camp who took on the independent management of a work area or the task of support in Habibi.Works. We feel this is an important step in the right direction.
The Year at a Glance
January: Unlike most projects working with refugees in Greece, Habibi.Works opens its doors after the winter break. There is no legally defined category for "maker-spaces" (like our workshop project) and therefore no clear rules. The team decides to open the workshops for basic repairs, but to keep aspects that are more characteristic for a community center (shared lunch, tea kitchen, sofa area with wifi) closed, in order not to expose the participating people and the project to more legal and health risks than necessary.
February: People from the camp for refugees in Katsikas and members of the local population can use the workshops on an appointment basis - with masks and minimum distance, of course. Many foundations for the larger projects in 2021 are laid in these weeks.
March: The region Habibi.Works is located in is declared a High Risk Area, all sorts of workshops now have to stop operating, too. Habibi.Works closes its doors on March 13 for a total of three weeks. In March, shocking articles about human rights violations by the Greek state in the Mediterranean Sea go through the media.
April: With Ioannina no longer a high-risk area on 5 April, Habibi. Works opens its doors directly on April 6th. Now, the implementation of one of the biggest projects in 2021 is about to begin; the construction of the plastic upcycling workshop Re.Works! With the support of the small organization "Not For Your Distinction", a completely new and exciting workspace is being created in Habibi.Works out of a shipping container (pictured above).
In April, the religious fasting month of Ramadan begins. At the same time, there is an outbreak of Corona inside the camp. Authorities enforce the quarantine of sick people together with all their healthy housemates instead of separating the people who tested positive.
May: Habibi.Works receives a visit from a team from MaiKa'i - the young climbing enthusiasts from Spain build the outdoor sports facility with climbing wall together with people from the camp. "Habibi and Sport with Refugees" has since been a successful project in collaboration between Habibi.Works and our partners "YSR". A huge shoutout to their amazing team!
June: With the beginning of the tourist season, Greece relaxes many restrictions. Life in the public space becomes more sociable and the weather does its part to create many beautiful moments in Habibi.Works. Among other things, Habibi.Works takes part in the 44000 Names campaign to commemorate people who lost their lives at the European borders.
July: In July, preparations for several summer events are in full swing - for Amal's visit, for the MakersXchange program and for Habibi.Works' birthday. Meanwhile, de works on the completion of the Re.Works container goes on.
August: On her long march from Syria to England, "Amal" (Arabic for "hope") and her team stop by Habibi.Works. The three-metre high doll and her journey generate a lot of international attention. We are happy that Habibi.Works is a stop on the campaign route. Moreover, Habibi.Works celebrates its 5th birthday in August. Meanwhile, in a different part of the world, the Taliban takeover is not only shaking the people of Afghanistan, but is also affecting many of the people we work with.
September: In August and September, the "MakersXchange" program takes place, in which Habibi.Works has been accepted. A young artist from the Netherlands joins our team and gives courses in ceramics and pre-Columbian whistling vessels. By far the biggest and most beautiful event in September is the ceremonial inauguration of the Re.Works workspace.
October: The organisation "CircusAid" offers circus courses for the children of the refugee camp on our premises. In October, the monthly financial support (150 euros per person) for people in the Greek refugee camps suddenly stops. The inhabitants, who are often in a precarious financial situation anyway, are now faced with the insurmountable task of procuring food, hygiene products and medicine for themselves and their families.
Habibi.Works, with Mimi Hapig as its representative, is accepted into the Ashoka programme "Hola America" for an exchange with organisations working with refugees in Latin America.
November: The lack of financial support leads to growing despair among the camp residents. For the first time since Habibi.Works opened in 2016, the team experiences targeted thefts. After a break-in in the small sports storage, we resolutely close the doors for two days and take time to make the building more burglar-proof - but most of all to talk to people from the camp and explain that break-ins and thefts can quickly bring trust and the whole project to its end. Of course, we don't know if the break-in was actually committed by someone from the camp - but we consider the communication still relevant and important in view of the smaller thefts. After that, the team records no further incidents.
November is a difficult month not only because of people's financial hardship. Katie-Jay, a founder of the organisation "iAct", who offered trainings for parents in Habibi.Works with the programme Little Ripples just a fortnight ago, loses her life in a car accident in the United States. The death of this motivated and optimistic colleague hits us and the people in the camp, who have known Katie-Jay for years, hard.
In the midst of this turbulent time, and in addition to their daily work, the team begins to work on the winter campaign together with supporters from the camp.
December: On urgent request, Habibi.Works receives a special emergency grant from the organisation "ChooseLove" to distribute hygiene items such as nappies, sanitary towels, soap, shampoo and toothpaste to the residents of the camp. As of the beginning of December, the Greek state has still not made any payment of the monthly aid. Where the money went that was made available for the people by the European Commission is not publicly questioned.
In December, in addition to the elaborate distributions and the winter campaign, the Habibi.Works team is working on another task outside the usual areas of work: the creation of a Tea Truck. An old, discarded van was donated to us by the organisation "Lifting Hands International", which we are lovingly converting into a tea station. The people from Katsikas Camp enthusiastically take on shifts to offer tea, coffee, cocoa and mandarins to everyone who comes.
Outlook for 2022 - these developments are in the pipeline
After the successful expansion of the project, the local team decided in December to follow the explicit wish of many participants and to establish a permanent music area in Habibi.Works. In addition, the Re.Works plastic lab will become an important platform for the involvement of Greek students and youth groups. Involving people from the local (often working) population and thus further promoting exchange and integration will be made easier by offering attractive courses on Saturdays.
Finally, a word about the team constellation. From January on, I will be travelling more for the project. Visiting partners and building a network, but also raising awareness about the situation in Greece and (maybe most importantly) having time to develop a long-term, sustainable strategy for Habibi.Works are just some of the many goals. Over the past year, an excellent coordination team (consisting of my colleagues Effie, Esther and Alice) has gradually taken over the day-to-day management of Habibi.Works from me. I will continue to work fully for Habibi.Works, being in constant communication with the team on the ground and continue to make important decisions together with them - just no longer in Katsikas all year round. I am grateful for the outstanding work that so many talented, dedicated people have done in Habibi.Works over the past 5.5 years. We are in a privileged position that allows us to use our time and skills to make a difference and to actively shape the world we want to live in. Using this privilege with full commitment in order to create platforms where everyone can meet as equals - that is a central aim of Habibi.Works. Now, I can't wait to dive into the next phase of the project with the current team!
We will keep you updated and are always available for questions and suggestions. Happy to hear from you, always :)
With best regards and the best wishes for your new year,
Mimi and the Habibi.Works team
Habibi.Works Team November 2021